I hope wherever you are in the world, you are smiling and WARM. It is approximately minus 1000 degrees in Alberta right now and only getting colder in the next week. I tried to go for a walk today and lasted a full 12 minutes so apparently have officially become a pansy west coaster! I will be spending Christmas here and then off to Saskatchewan to spend the remainder of the season with my Dad at the farm:)
This market season was a DOOZY. I had 5 markets back to back and have to say that a lot of things went a little wonky along the way! There was freezing rain, delayed parcels, a frozen neck, a never ending cough that may have caused said frozen neck, more delayed parcels, display malfunctions, the forgetting of important components, etc. BUT through it all there were many, many highlights and things that went very RIGHT.
Some of those highlights consisted of the people that showed up to help along the way when I felt a meltdown was imminent. I had rolled into Edmonton a day later than planned because of various kerfuffles and these friends (one of which I hadn't seen since I was 17 and the other whom I'd never even met til that night!) came to help me get set up the night before Make It started. Note look of extreme relief on my face.
And the random guy walking his dog past me while I tried to smush my 6 foot wood display in my car (had kept it at my friends' place who were away in Mexico when I arrived to grab it for the show) and went home and came back with ties to help me secure it to the roof of my car!
Not to mention, all the wonderful customers who came to these shows to not only support local artisans but also dole out hugs and share amazing life stories too.
There are times when I wonder if what I do matters at all. Is all the work really worth it? Am I helping anyone?
But then someone tells you how they bought your "Do Epic Shit" necklace to give to their friend who is a Human Rights Lawyer and wears it whenever she has a big case or customers who come to my booth wearing a piece of jewelry they bought years ago and say its still their fave.
That kinda stuff makes my little heart just plain GLEEFUL!
On top of all this, there are all the vendors I get to work alongside. I've said it once, I'll say it again - they are some of the hardest, most down to earth, kick ass people I know and it is a pleasure to know them all.
I can't send this out without mentioning these two. My Mom passed away 6 years ago as many of you know and my brother earlier this year. All of us are missing someone and the holidays amplify that void even more. I am going share what I try to practice myself, which is to focus on all the good memories I have of them. When those waves of grief show up, I mourn and allow myself to feel and cry, but I do not let myself get pummelled for too long for I know our loved ones would want us all to live the remainder of our lives with as much joy, ease and love that we can muster.
I also want to mention our cat, Ginger Puff, who lived on the farm with my Dad. We lost him last week and neither of us are looking forward to being there without him. He has been a great comfort to us through our grief and really would have loved if he could have stuck around a little longer, but we are so grateful for the time he spent with us.
I am sending all my love and A-LOT-TA hugs to everyone. There will be some big changes in the coming year which I will write about soon. Until then, I leave you to your festivities and wish you all a wonderful holiday season and the biggest and BEST wishes for 2018 from myself and my assistant, Sigurd.
Do you ever travel to a place and feel like maybe you might belong there? Ever since the first time I went to NY 11 years ago, I have felt this way. I can't fully explain it but when I am there I feel like it's right where I should be. At the very least, I feel like I am a part of something really cool and BIG. As a photographer, it is my Mecca. There is never not anything interesting to photograph and more galleries, workshops, and inspiration than one could ever dream of.
But the best thing about New York is its people. I don't feel invisible there like I sometimes do in Vancouver. When I sneeze on the subway, someone blesses me. If I am carrying my suitcase and camera equipment, someone always comes to help me carry it up the subway stairs or onto a train. I know this is not everyone's experience, but every trip has always brought kind and interesting people into my life.
Top: Cait at St. Anne's Warehouse (Photoville), Left: Photographer Louis Mendes with his Speed Graphic Camera, Right: Manhattan from DUMBO
I arrived to my friend Cait's place on Wednesday after taking an overnight flight from Vancouver, where I had been just a few hours after arriving back from Saskatchewan. Jet lagged from the flight, I walked around her neighbourhood in Brooklyn until she got home. Cait and I met in Thailand in '08 on a jungle trek and have managed to keep in touch and see each other fairly regularly since.
Finally feeling half human on Thursday, Cait and I took in a talk by combat photographer, Finbarr O'Reilly and retired U.S. Marine, Thomas J. Brennan at Columbia University. Long time Facebook friends, I had met Finbarr 5 years ago when he was in Vancouver briefly and was delighted to learn that he was in NY promoting his book that evening, Shooting Ghosts. Cait is a Social Worker at the Veteran's Hospital so she was especially interested in the subject matter. It is an authentic and powerful book shedding much light on the aftermath of war and the toll it can take from both a soldier's and journalist's perspective. Definitely check it out!
Afterwards, we took in a bit of Photoville which takes place at Brooklyn Bridge Park. It is a modular event built out of shipping containers where you can view exhibitions, lectures, workshops and outdoor screenings. I could have just camped out there all week! I actually had a moment while alone in an exhibit where I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was SO grateful to be there. My soul needed a location change badly and to be nourished with photographic inspiration.
I spent Friday at Photoville as well and had "planned" to go again on Saturday. Before I left for NY, I kept repeating this mantra: "Thank you for allowing me to lead a divinely guided life." Meaning that I would have a plan but I wasn't going to try and control it too much and be open to detours and other goodies the universe might have in store for me.
So after FINALLY getting on the "right" train Saturday (there was so much subway construction!) to go back to the photo festival, I realized I was instead going the exact opposite way of my intended destination and well on my way towards Rockaway Beach in Queens. Oopsies!
I got off the train to regroup. I was really looking forward to the lectures that day, in particular the one on conservation and was not at all dressed for the beach, nor did I have my long lens, battery charger, sweater, proper shoes etc. After texting with Cait and being reminded of my mantra, I got back on that train in good faith that I was indeed on the "right" one and continued onward to Rockaway Beach.
I went to Elegante for my usual "White Pizza" (mozzarella and cottage cheese on the most scrumptious, heavenly dough) and then over to Boarders to say hello to the owner, Steve, before heading to the water to catch some beach action.
Rockaway Beach, Queens
The weather was hot and hurricane season was bringing in a nice swell. I was stoked. I first went there to shoot when I attended David Alan Harvey's workshop in 2009, went back again in 2010 and then for Red Bulletin in 2016. Since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, it has rapidly gentrified and become a popular hipster destination with wine bars, fashion boutiques and popular restaurants. I am glad I was able to experience it for the little known surf paradise it was pre-Sandy, but still love it all the same.
I had texted my friend Mike on my way out there and we made plans to meet up after I was done shooting. Meanwhile, my friend Sean who I had also hoped to see, texted to say he was back from sailing and making dinner if I wanted to join him, but Cait and I had also talked about meeting in Little Italy for a festival later on. I had a stressful moment trying to figure out what I should do before I calmed myself with the mantra yet again...thank you for allowing me to lead a divinely guided life.
I connected to wi-fi to check on Mike's whereabouts but hadn't received a text yet. Around the same time, Cait texted to say her beau was going to meet her at the festival so I didn't need to feel pressure to join since he was already there. I felt that I was being lead to only one choice. So, I went with the flow and headed down to Sean's to have dinner with him!
Beach 60th, Rockaway Beach, Queens
Beach 90th, Rockaway Beach, Queens
This lead to a long, lingering meal and a fantastic evening of catching up on the last year of our lives. Sean was one of the first people that I met in Rockaway in '09. He has introduced me to many of the locals there, let me crash at his place so I didn't have to keep making the 90 minute subway ride to Brooklyn and back and been the subject of many of my photos.
Getting to hang out with him again turned out to be exactly what my spirit needed and I spent 3 more days shooting on the beach and around town, eating MORE white pizza, making new friends, indulging in some quality hammock time and the biggest highlight - sailing around Jamaica Bay on a sunny afternoon with Sean! Not at all what I had "planned" for this trip but certainly better than what I could have dreamed up.
What the universe will manifest when you are in alignment with it is a lot more interesting than what you try to manifest.
I did finally hit Manhattan the last 2 days I was there to check out photography galleries and to wander with my camera in my favourite neighbourhoods. I did not want to leave. Alas, duty was calling back in Vancouver where I had committed to doing the Etsy show.
Greenwich Village, NY
As much as I wanted to stay, I was so happy that I got to go on this trip at all. More proof that the universe is always conspiring in our favour when we do things that light up our soul...which in turn, lights up the world!
Over and over and over again it has been proven to me that surrendering to what is, instead of trying so hard to control everything, is the most peaceful, abundant path. Add a little faith and there is no telling what magic will come.
Do you have any stories like this? If so, I'd love to read about them!
Beach 90th, Rockaway Beach, Queens
Upcoming Holiday Markets
Really, I have no business writing this blog right now because I am so outrageously busy prepping for the upcoming holiday markets!! But I had to finish it now or it would certainly have ended up in the graveyard of unwritten blogs.
I will be making the trek to Make It Edmonton again but this time I am also popping up to Calgary to do Market Collective! This will be my first show there and I am amped to get to see so many Calgarian friends.
As I stood in a vast field of barley where I could see nothing but sky and land around me, it was hard for me to believe that I would be in Brooklyn in a matter of hours. But I'll get to that later!
I had come back home to the farm in Saskatchewan, my 5th trip this year, for harvest time. All of the farmers were out in the field day and night. The dust from the swathers and the combines seemed to constantly hang in the air from the dry summer.
I remember harvests past when I was growing up there and how stressful it was for my Dad and all the farmers we knew. Weather dictated absolutely everything. As long as there was no rain, there was no rest. I would sit on the roof and watch the combines in the fields surrounding our house, too young to understand what my Dad was going through because I had never not known food on the table or a roof over my head. My appreciation has grown exponentially since then for his passion and dedication to farming, his love of the land and what it provided for our family.
As always, being back on the farm was both healing and bitter sweet. Memories of my Mom and brother and when we all lived there together came flooding back as they tend to do. It is hard to believe that one half of my immediate family is gone and only Dad and I remain. It is not a reality I accept very easily and prefer to live in complete denial most of the time.
I visited my brother's grave and played him two of his favourite songs like I always do when I'm there: "On the Combine" by High Valley and "John Deere Green" by Joe Diffie.
When I go there, I can't deny what happened anymore. I suppose that is a good thing in a way to help me accept this new reality, but I know that I have a long way to go before I do.
I have written before about how healing taking photos is for me. I feel completely present..grounded. I am in the moment. I feel hyper aware of life as it unfolds around me and I think it has helped with feeling connected to our home that my brother loved so much.
I was delighted when my cousin Steve asked me to take some photos of harvest while I was there for Tomtene Seed Farms. I got to ride around in the combine with him as well as his wife Jeanette and of course with my Dad in the swather and drive around in a pick up truck from field to field taking pics. It was so nice to be doing something completely different than what I am used to doing every day which is usually either sitting in front of my computer or at my jewelry bench!
Farming has changed a LOT since I was a kid. Farmers have a lot more land and sometimes several combines going in a field at once, all equipped with GPS so that the crop can be taken off as quickly and efficiently as possible. When I used to ride around with my Dad when I was really little, I basically sat on the arm rest (or at least that's what I remember it as). Now there is a real passenger seat to sit on...so luxurious! Some swathers didn't even have cabs back in the day....I suspect there were a lot more "farmer tans" back then.
One of the biggest highlights was getting to attend a "field meal". My cousin Susan brought out a delicious lasagna to the field while other family members came out to partake. The lawn chairs were set out in a circle and the spread set up on the tailgate of one of the trucks as the parked combines and tractors towered around us. This used to be no big deal to me, but now, after being away from this kind of stuff for so long, I was so happy to be able to experience it again.
After everyone's bellies were full and the lawn chairs back in the truck box, they headed back out onto the machinery and I flew around taking photos. One of these eves, Bella the dog joined me. The life of a country dog is pretty freaking swell, I'd say.
Another highlight was my Aunty Ruby calling out to the farm on a Sunday night close to 10 to say she was coming by to drop "something" off. She arrived a few minutes later with steaming hot cinnamon buns fresh from her oven!
The cinnamon buns were sooo delicious and made my tummy happy, but it was my Aunt's sweet gesture and thought that made my heart all ooey gooey.
EVERYONE needs an Aunty Ruby in their life:)
It is unfortunate that sometimes it takes a tragedy to bring people together again. My brother's passing has brought me back to my home and the people I love several times this year. I had a yearning to be close to my roots, which makes me feel closer to him. His passing has made me so much more aware of the brevity of life and that we don't have forever to spend time with the people we love and do everything we want.
I knew that going to NY 10 days before I had to do a major show (Etsy Made in Canada) was not the most practical thing, but there was an awesome photo festival (Photoville) happening that I had been wanting to go to for YEARS and Rockaway Beach was calling for me to come back and shoot there too!
One of the top 5 regrets of the dying is, "I wish I hadn't worked so much." I look back on my life now and when I see the highlight reel, the days where I decided to stay home and work are not in there! But the days where I accepted an invitation to go for a tea or decided to take that little road trip bring zero regrets and nothing but warm memories.
I knew deep down that the universe wanted me to be happy and if I followed my heart, I couldn't go wrong.
So off I went. From those barley fields, I was on a subway hours later headed for Brooklyn from Newark with little sleep but great excitement for what was in store for me there...
Next up...Brooklyn and the Beach!
"I had to trust life, since I was young enough to believe that life loved the person who dared to live it."
- Maya Angelou
Just a little reminder that holiday markets are right around the corner (yikes!). To see where I will be selling this year, click here. If you can't make it to one of the shows, virtually everything I bring to the shows is on my new website here! For more travel pics, new products and inspiration, follow me on Instagram.